In the education field, technology is constantly changing and placing demands and stress on educators to keep up with these changes. It’s been my experience that we tend to jump on board with these new advancements in the classroom without much thought as to the benefits versus the drawbacks. For me, one of the major drawbacks is the time it takes to learn the new technology and how to apply it in a classroom. It seems ever more prevalent that I’m using technology that I haven’t been properly trained on and haven’t had the time to adequately investigate it on my own. My one experience over the years that illustrates is my use of the Smartboard.
I used a Smartboard for about 7 years in a row at the previous school I was teaching. I had this giant contraption mounted on the wall at the front of my room that I had to use, it was the focal point of the classroom. There was very a small whiteboard at the back of the room, like it or not, I had to do my work on the Smartboard. The Smartboard was cutting edge technology when it arrived and I’ve spent many hours being trained an additional many hours trying to figure functions out on my own. In many ways it was an excellent tool and it worked especially well when dealing with graphing lines and slope in algebra. I did however spend a lot of instructional time waiting for my technology to start up, and dealing with technological issues that seemed constant. It seemed I was always putting out “small fires” where I’m up at the board trouble shooting and I can hear the students behind me getting louder and louder while they are waiting for their teacher to get the issue sorted. For the past three years I have not used the Smartboard, I use a projector that I have hooked up to my laptop instead. It seems strange to say but it is less of a burden to me than I thought, I now longer have these long waits while I’m up at the screen trying to get my technology “right” and I find this simpler approach to teaching much less stressful and as a result I feel my teaching is better without the Smartboard.
In my case the tools I was using guided some of my choices as an educator. I wasn’t so much limited in how creative I could be but I was limited by technology that I wasn’t really prepared to use efficiently. The technology, many times, got in the way of my teaching and the “flow” of my class. I was locked into using this Smartboard and it had an affect on the way I would structure my lessons. I found that it did limit me and became more of a focal point for my lessons. Now, I realize that by not having it, I am much more free in he classroom and not “chained” to this giant computer mounted on the front wall. I have fewer technical issues and my lessons seem to go off with less hitches than in the past.
For the novice teacher, with the constant demands to use technology in the classroom, I think it can limit and encumber at a time when they are learning how to teach and find their “voice” in the classroom. Sometimes the simpler approach can be more effective and create less stress in the classroom for students and teachers alike. Obviously using technology in the classroom is important, however it has to be done in a purposeful manner, not just because it is there. Proper training and practice are a must for it’s effective use and it should never guide your teaching practice. It should be something that enhances and clarifies the concepts you are teaching.